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Women leaders speak out against gender-based violence

By HILARY KIMUYU

Nominated Senator Beatrice Elachi has raised the alarm over a trend where women are increasingly being harassed while using matatus across the country.

Ms Elachi, who spoke during the launch of an assessment on the magnitude of violence against women and girls in the public transport in Kenya on Wednesday, called on the government to intervene and end the menace.

“Transport sector is very important to this country and what we should ask ourselves, that for the many years we have had the transport sector especially the matatu sector, how many people have been willing to engage with the sector and support it,” she said.

Among the most vulnerable are adolescent girls who depend on the matatus to get them to school and back home on a daily basis.

The harassment and assault that they face in the matatus represent just one part of Kenya’s broader problem with gender-based violence, the assessment showed.

“As a country we need to build this sector and bring in more safety in an environment where people can decide to leave there cars at home and use public transport,” the Senator added.

TRANSPORT SECTOR

She called on the government to also fete the best behaved individuals in the transport sector as an incentive to reduce the harassment. “There are a lot of medals being awarded and I want to challenge the government to also award one for best driver and another for best conductor and maybe this will help reduce GBV in the matatu,” she said.

She shocked the audience when she said that even in Parliament there are cases where women are reporting being harassed in there.

Grace Mbugua, the founder and director of Women’s Empowerment Link (WEL), said the research took three years to complete and it targeted a sample of 700 respondents drawn from the population of interest, including male and female students, transport industry workers such as drivers, riders, conductors and touts.

Members of the provincial administration, gender officers, management and operators of matatus, were also included in the study. The study took place in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Kakamega counties.

According to her, the sample was drawn from public service vehicles (PSV) commuters, PSV crews, law enforcement officers and CBOs, all of who are considered to be familiar with the public transport services in the respective counties, and therefore suitable primary sources of the data required.

Some Kenyan girls have also faced harassment from men who offer them free or reduced fare rides on their motorbikes or boda bodas. In some cases, these adult men coerce adolescent girls as young as 13 to exchange sexual favors for boda boda rides. “They are taking advantage of girls,” Ms Mbugua said.